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Our Story | The History of The Parka

Our Story | The History of The Parka

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Parka Origins – The word ‘Parka’ means ‘animal skin’ and originates from the Arctic regions around Northern Russia and Alaska. Originally the indigenous Inuit made parka coats from seal skin to shield themselves from the extreme arctic climates whilst hunting and kayaking. The functional design also enabled them to protect, transport and feed their young. Usually long in length with a fur lined hood and roomy proportions to ensure insulation and protection; the parka was also treated with fish oil to help keep it water resistant.


The Military Parka – Enter the 1940’s and with-it WWII, bringing the parka back to the forefront of functional design. Retaining some of the qualities of the Inuit parka, the fur lined parka coats were introduced as military issue to keep the soldiers; including our founder Alfie Lever, protected from the elements. Strong winds and bitterly cold weather conditions during action required the most technically engineered outerwear which continued to evolve all the way into the 1950’s.

Parka London founder Alfie Lever in 1945 in his RAF uniform
Parka London founder Alfie Lever in 1945 in his RAF uniform

The war is over – With the ending of WWII there is a sense of liberation and the Parka goes along for the ride; free to take on a new role it fast becomes a wardrobe staple for a new, modern way of living. These post-war years also sees Alfie Lever open an outerwear factory in East London’s Spitalfields, manufacturing his RAF inspired parka coats. Drawn to it’s utilitarian style, the Mods adopt the look. The parka becomes synonymous with Vespa and Lambretta scooters, modern jazz music and youth culture.

Alfie Lever's original parka design from 1953 and a the original members jacket from 1981
Alfie Lever's original parka design from 1953 and a the original members jacket from 1981

Laid back luxury – A decade on and the swinging 60’s has landed, Alfie Lever’s parkas are being sold in the boutiques of iconic Carnaby street and Soho, frequented by the likes of the Rolling Stones. Mods style their Italian tailoring with their military parka coats, decorated with badges from their favourite bands.

From this time into the 90's and early 00’s the Parka evolves again, adopting a more contemporary style famously displayed by the Gallagher’s brothers, Blur and bands of the Mod Revival and Brit Pop culture. Film star Phil Daniels of iconic 70's film Quadrophenia even wears Parka London for the film's anniversary celebrations.

Phil Daniels wears Parka London in the anniversary celebrations of 1979's cult film Quadrophenia
Phil Daniels wears Parka London in the anniversary celebrations of 1979's cult film Quadrophenia

The future is parka – The journey of the humble parka is far from complete and here at Parka London we continually strive to elevate this cherished outerwear style on par with a great pair of jeans or pair of canvas sneakers. We believe no wardrobe is complete without a parka London coat.

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